Settlement of the area dates from the late 1800s, although population was minimal until the post-war years. Meeanee developed as a small settlement in the 1940s and 1950s, servicing the surrounding dairy farms. The population increased from the mid-1990s, a result of new dwellings being added to the area.
Awatoto is located approximately 5 km south of the Napier city centre at 39°S 176°E, on the coast of Hawke's Bay, on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. State Highway 2 passes through Awatoto along the coastline on its way towards Napier from Hastings.
Awatoto is partly an industrial area. Paua Fresh Ltd is an abalone farm in Awatoto, Napier. The facility is currently producing 6,000 kg annually, and sells live abalone throughout New Zealand, and can also supply frozen product if requested. The coast at Awatoto is mostly used for fishing. Water activities do take place at the Awatoto river mouth just south of the industrial area, where the Clive, Ngaruroro and Tutaekuri Rivers meet the sea. Awatoto is the site of water extraction and bottling.